Municipal and Regional Consultation Process- MIRANET asks was it worth it?

Mississauga, ON: On Friday, October 25, Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark announced that the Province will no longer be pursuing its top-down approach to municipal and regional governance. It will no longer follow through on its promise to redraw municipal and regional boundaries in an effort to find efficiencies and reduce costs. Instead Queen’s Park is making up to $143-million available to municipalities across Ontario to assist them in finding ways to lower costs and improve services. This decision comes after months of consultation and after the province announced cuts for public health care units, child care, ambulance services and others.

Here is what MIRANET (Mississauga Residents’ Association Network) knows so far:

  • Michael Fenn (former Ontario Deputy Minister) and Ken Seiling (former Waterloo Regional Chair) were appointed in January 2019 to review Ontario’s eight regional municipalities; Peel being one of them. These were paid appointments. How much did these appointments cost the taxpayers of Ontario?

 

  • After ten months, 8,500 submissions, and nine consultation sessions with individuals and organizations to find ways to improve municipal and regional government, the Ford government has decided to halt this process and stay with the STATUS QUO. How much did this consultation process cost the taxpayers of Ontario?

 

  • Regions and municipalities were left scrambling to respond, many being forced to hire expensive consultants working under tight deadlines to conduct their own analyses of the options. In the case of Mississauga and the Region of Peel almost $1-million was spent ($60,000 for a post card campaign by the Mayor’s Office; a $300,000 impact analysis by Deloitte for the Region of Peel; a $600,000 impact analysis by Ernst and Young). What was the total cost to the rest of the taxpayers across the province?

 

  • Ratepayers’ Associations and special interest groups, like MIRANET, had to marshal their limited resources in a short period of time to craft their submissions to the Special Advisers. How much did their time and effort cost?

 

Does the $143-million being offered by the Provincial Government cover the costs of the consultation process as well as municipal budget cuts which have already been implemented? Also, we would like to see the results of the impact analysis as they may indicate efficiencies and cost savings that could help municipalities now. After all, we paid for this.

This government did not have a mandate to redraw municipal and regional boundaries; nor did it have a mandate to cut public service sector jobs. On the contrary, they promised no jobs would be lost. Perhaps it is time for the Regions and Municipalities of Ontario to renegotiate their legal relationship with the Province? While municipalities are creatures of the province, they are also the engines that drive its economy – any tinkering on the fly could make them seize up and stop working.

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South West Mississauga Ratepayers’ Association federal election debate on Oct 10

On October 10th 2019 the ratepayer groups of Southwest Mississauga (SWMRA) are once again putting on a debate for the upcoming Federal election which is scheduled to be held on October 21st, 2019.

You will have the opportunity to hear the candidates thoughts on how they will improve our Country and our way of life. Use your voice and your vote to make positive changes Federally. Many of you have attended our debates in the past know that they are spirited and the information provided helps us all make a more informed decision on who we want to lead our country into the future.

Get out and Vote!

 

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Lisgar Residents’ Association Federal Election Candidates Debate

The Lisgar Residents’ Association (a non-partisan group of community-minded volunteers)

invites you to a

Federal Election Candidates Debate

for the riding of Mississauga-Streetsville

Conservative – Ghada Melek
Green Party – Chris Hill
Liberal – Gagan Sikand
NDP – TBA

Tuesday, September 24, 2019
7:00pm-9:00pm

@ St. Simon Stock Elementary School
6440 Lisgar Dr, Mississauga

Meet the candidates. Come with your questions.

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Media coverage of MIRANET comments on Bill 108

MIRANET’s comments on Bill 108 were covered by Peel Weekly News. See below for full text of MIRANET’s submission.

MIRANET comments on Bill 108 - Peel Weekly News, 6 June 2019

 

 

 

MIRANET’s Bill 108 Concerns

The Mississauga Residents’ Association Network (MIRANET) is a city-wide network of residents’ associations.  MIRANET notes that Bill 108 (More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019) has received second reading in the Legislature.  The period for public comment closes on June 1, 2019.  More time should be permitted for public input when Bill 108 proposes to amend 13 statutes. We have serious concerns about the Province’s proposed Bill 108.

Economists on all sides of the political debate have authored numerous studies demonstrating that “trickle down economics” is a failure. There is no evidence to support that a reduction in Development Charges (DCs) will lead to more affordable housing. There is no mechanism to ensure that these cost savings will be passed on to the home buyer. Home prices respond to supply and demand. This reduction in DCs is tantamount to an industry subsidy for developers at the expense of the taxpayer.

Mississauga has been developing a comprehensive housing strategy in consultation with residents and stakeholder groups which will utilize inclusionary zoning.  This may be negated by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing who will have the power to restrict the City’s Official Plan and override municipalities. Who will benefit? Only the developers.

Municipal taxpayers must not subsidize the highly profitable development industry; we are already burdened enough by the high property taxes we pay. In a free market, Developers must be able to stand on their own two feet. The proposed changes will increase red tape and staffing requirements. The Municipality will be assuming greater financial risks due to the reduced development charge payment schedules. The Municipality must not assume the financial risk if Developers go bankrupt, are sold or move. WILL THE PROVINCE MAKE UP FOR ANY REDUCTIONS IN DC REVENUE?  

The community benefit charge could be the most significant of all the proposed changes. In the current Planning Act, “Section 37/Community Benefits” are known as bonus zoning, applying to sites that see height and density increases, beyond current zoning. The Developer contributes a portion of the land value uplift to help off-set the impact of this unexpected and increased development. This puts the amount back into the community that is receiving the extra height/density. The Bill proposes that the term “Community Benefit” include: Section 37 contributions, soft services development charges (e.g. library, recreation and parks, and other services traditionally subject to the statutory ten per cent deduction under the Development Charges Act, 1997); and payment in lieu of parkland dedication.

The legislation indicates the new “Community Benefit” will be capped at a prescribed percentage of the value of the lands, rather than a per-unit type of charge. If the cap reduces what the City can collect, there could be impacts on the tax base or service levels. MIRANET suggests the value of land bears no relationship to the projected number of residents living on that land who will require Municipal services.  A Complete Community has parks, libraries, and recreation facilities which make it a liveable community.  The Premier’s Bill 108 will deny us these benefits.  Who wants to live In a concrete jungle?

The shortened time lines under the proposed streamlined Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) will no longer allow for meaningful public consultation and will generate much greater staffing and resource requirements for the City’s Planning Department. Municipalities are already struggling to meet the current timelines. This will cost more money. WILL THE PROVINCE COVER THESE COSTS?

After years of public and stakeholder consultation, the Province implemented changes to the seriously flawed OMB model, introducing the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) that gives more power to Municipalities and residents. The Province’s new model returns power to Developers. Will Bill 108 have the effect of taxpayers partially funding developments? We certainly hope not.

Does being open for business mean taxpayers are expected to foot the bill? IS THIS GOVERNMENT FOR THE PEOPLE?

 

MIRANET

Mississauga Residents’ Association Network

31 May 2019

 

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Further media coverage of MIRANET response to regional governance review

The well-respected and longtime journalist John Stewart of The Mississauga News referenced MIRANET in his May 20 column “Can we please have an honest conversation about leaving Peel?” He points out that “MIRANET is concerned about the one-sided focus on taxes and costs while ignoring investments in our future and believes the consultation process lacks transparency and, therefore, legitimacy,”.

MIRANET’s submission to the regional government review was also published in summary form by The Mississauga News. Titled “City can’t pursue separation without informed consent“, it notes that “In the end, the residents of Peel should ultimately be the ones to decide the fate of their region, not councillors or the province”.

 

 

 

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MIRANET response to regional governance review covered in Peel Weekly News

MIRANET’s remarks to the Regional Government Review panel presented on 8 May 2019 have been published in the Peel Weekly News. Please see below for the article.

 

MIRANET responds to regional governance review - Peel Weekly News, 16 May 2019

MIRANET responds to regional governance review – Peel Weekly News, 16 May 2019

 

 

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No marriage, divorce, or counselling, without informed consent – MIRANET’s submission to Regional Government Review

On 8 May 2019, MIRANET presented to the Peel Consultation of the Regional Government Review. MIRANET’s remarks and press release are below.

MIRANET’s Thoughts on Regional Government Changes

Good afternoon. We are Sue Shanly and Charlene Haupt from MIRANET–the Mississauga Residents’ Association Network. We are a Network of Residents’ Associations across Mississauga and are here today to voice the concerns of our members about the future of the City of Mississauga and the Region of Peel.

Frankly, we struggled with your brief as outlined in the email invitation. There was no methodology or standard of measurement given by which to provide you with meaningful feedback. Further consultation with the online Terms of Reference was also not helpful.

  1. Introduction

Is half a day enough time for you to listen to the questions and concerns of a region of over 1 million people made up of 3 different municipalities? You are here today – for a few hours during the day – to decide the fate of an almost five decade old union that has more than tripled in population, created numerous jobs and unprecedented prosperity for all, and is now jointly responsible for billions of dollars of infrastructure which will be around for many decades to come. It takes a lifetime of marriage to form a strong union. A union of two individuals produces shared offspring. It also creates joint liabilities – a house, a car. In terms of the region, this translates to regional services and regional infrastructure. A divorce almost always creates unhappiness and unintended consequences – constant legal wrangling and costs, neglected offspring and broken individuals. The same could happen to the Region should it allow the City of Mississauga to leave.

We are not saying that this union is perfect – there is certainly room for improvement. However, you cannot change something unless you know what is working and what is not. Change for the sake of change may end up breaking something that did not need fixing in the first place.

  1. Lack of Time and Information

Given the complexity of this issue MIRANET feels we do not have enough time or information to make a thoughtful, educated decision. What is the urgency? We have been presented with two reports thus far: the Deloitte Report commissioned by the Region of Peel; and the Corporate Report from the City of Mississauga. Mayor Crombie has criticized the Deloitte Report for “having an agenda.” As citizens of a democracy we are entitled to an unbiased report conducted by a third party.

  1. The Marriage Option

More time for review of the three options is needed: amalgamation, secession, and status quo. Or as we refer to them: marriage, divorce and counselling. Why is the Province rushing the marriage when it will be such a complicated decision? How will this process be any different given the complexity of Toronto’s amalgamation whose negative impacts are still being felt today and which did not create the efficiencies that were expected? The report from the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG) in 2013 concluded that the two-tier option was preferable in terms of costs and ability to govern effectively. The report from the Fraser Institute, a conservative think-tank, published in 2015, concluded that Ontario amalgamations in the 1990’s did not yield any benefits. Not only do we face increased operating costs and therefore taxes, but we also face the potential reduction in the number of Councillors, making it harder for our voices to be heard. At this point we are concerned that we are headed for a shot-gun wedding. And as the old adage goes: marry in haste, repent at leisure.

  1. The Divorce Option

Our second option is divorce, which has been endorsed by the City of Mississauga as outlined in their Corporate Report, which is partly based on information that is 16 years out of date. It is impossible to draw any conclusions supporting divorce based on the information currently available. What mechanism would be put in place to separate capital investments or ongoing liabilities such as waste dumps? Who will be accountable? How will service transfers be decided and managed? What are the contingency plans? How long will the divorce take? Will there be sufficient time for the divorce to proceed in an orderly manner? Is there a dispute resolution mechanism in place? Or will we be contending with utter chaos and mounting legal bills for years to come? We have nothing but questions in search of answers.

  1. The Status Quo Option

The final option is maintaining the status quo. According to the City’s own Citizens’ Satisfaction Surveys (the most recent being 2017) 89% of residents rated the overall quality of life as excellent or good, and 71% were satisfied with the City’s municipal government. The greater issue seems to be lack of dedicated funding from the Provincial Government.

To date we have not seen or been given access to any studies which identify inefficiencies within the current two-tier system of government. If we knew exactly what the problems were, we could then formulate appropriate solutions. Isn’t the simplest option usually the best? Or in other words: it ain’t broke, it just needs some minor adjustments.

  1. Concluding Thoughts

Throughout this entire, very short and very chaotic process, three things stand out:

  1. The one-sided focus on taxes and costs. There has been no mention of investments, investments in people. In our democratic society we have all agreed to pay taxes in order that these monies may be redistributed for our mutual benefit. Every tax dollar is an investment in ourselves, in our neighbours and in our future. Every line item within the regional and municipal budgets is an investment in the residents of Peel and Mississauga and in our shared values. We should not just be looking at absolute costs but at returns on investment, something that leading economists the world over are advocating.
  2. This process lacks transparency and therefore legitimacy. We currently have no unbiased information at our disposal, nor do we have any real input into the final decision. We have not been given the yardsticks by which the special advisors will be measuring regional governance, decision-making and service delivery – they were not provided in the emailed brief nor were they provided in the online Terms of Reference. A robust democracy requires access to credible and reliable information, an electorate willing to spend the time to educate themselves on the issues and a government prepared to listen, learn and acquiesce to the will of the people.
  3. The residents of Peel should ultimately be the ones to decide the fate of their region. By this we mean the electorate; this is not a decision that should be left to either the province or our Municipal Councillors where neither has been given a mandate to do so.

 

Regional Review Consultation Press Release - 8 May 2019

Regional Review Consultation Press Release – 8 May 2019

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MIRANET Press Release: Did you vote for this?

Did you vote for this?

Whether you’re for or against Mississauga’s secession from the Region of Peel, is not the issue. For a decision that could impact us all for generations to come, residents of Mississauga must be given the opportunity to make an informed decision. We need time independent studies/analyses and public consultation in order to make an informed decision. Not one council member, including the mayor or the Premier of Ontario, ran on this platform and thus has no mandate. The deadline that has been imposed on us is utterly meaningless, arbitrary and capricious.

Our elected officials serve at the behest of the people. They need to represent our views in a more democratic way.

We need our City officials to stand up to the provincial government on our behalf. That is their job. We want the Province to slow down this process and provide an independent transparent report to the residents of Peel Region.

~to quote Harlan Ellison

“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”

__________________________________________________________________________________

MIRANET (Mississauga Residents’ Association Network)

For further information, contact Sue Shanly, Chair of MIRANET Council

info@miranet.ca

Twitter: @MIRANET_network

 

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May 1 Town Hall on Regional Government

More than 100 residents from wards 1 and 2 filled the Royal Canadian Legion in Port Credit to hear the City of Mississauga’s rationale for becoming a single-tier entity, independent of the Region of Peel.  Other options such as amalgamation with its municipal siblings Brampton and/or Caledon, or staying within Peel Region with efficiency “tweaks”, were not thought by Mississauga Council to be the most fiscally prudent action to undertake.

The feeling in the room seemed to be split with some supporting the City’s stance, while others thought amalgamation would be a better option. Still others thought staying within Peel Region would be more beneficial for our future.

Starting May 2nd the City of Mississauga will start a mail campaign to residents where they can send a postage-paid pre-addressed postcard to the province to show their support for Mississauga’s independence.  Many thought that options on that postcard could have been made better simply by including a “NO” option.

Mississauga’s position is based on a report first released by the city back in 2003 but updated this year.  Brampton prefers to cite the Region of Peel’s 2019 report it commissioned by Deloitte instead.   As a result of March 28 debate at Peel Regional Council, a third financial report is underway involving input from all 3 municipalities and Peel Region, in the hope for its completion prior to the May 22 deadline for submissions. Most agree this is an unlikely outcome.

Regardless of what the report indicates it will probably have no bearing on the final outcome for two reasons: Elected Mississauga reps spoke on residents’ behalf without advance consultation, and ultimately the Premier and his Cabinet can decide our fate without disclosure of recommendations of the Report concerning the Regional Municipal Review.

All in all May 1 was a very spirited evening.

You can read more about the evening here:

Mississauga Wards mull secession during town hall – http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=0d25cf18-d679-4156-95f4-8941233d7aef

https://www.insauga.com/mississauga-demands-new-report-on-costs-involved-in-separating-from-the-region-of-peel

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MIRANET 2019 Annual General Meeting

The Mississauga Residents’ Association Network – MIRANET – will have its 2019 Annual General Meeting on April 10 at the Port Credit Legion.

Our Guest Speaker is Ryan Clarke, President of Advocacy Solutions.

Ryan Clarke is the president of Advocacy Solutions. He helps advocates synthesize advocacy campaigns, amplify campaign messaging, and engage and influence key decision makers through the development and implementation of impactful advocacy strategies. Since founding the practice in 2003, Ryan has spoken about advocacy across Canada and internationally, teaching and training thousands of people how to make their voices heard.

A member of the Law Society of Ontario, Ryan was called to the Ontario Bar in 1995 and practiced exclusively in the area of family law for almost three years. He then became a Special Assistant to the Ontario Minister of Energy, Science and Technology, serving as policy advisor on all issues within the Science and Technology Division. Ryan joined Glaxo Wellcome (now GlaxoSmithKline Inc.) in 1999 as Senior Manager, Public Affairs specializing in public policy and government relations at the municipal, provincial and federal levels.

Ryan holds both an Honours B.A. and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and studied law at the University of Western Ontario.

As well as being a member of the Canadian and Ontario Bar Associations, Ryan is an active member of several business organizations, including the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. A former member of the Biotechnology Council of Ontario, Ryan was previously a government appointed public member of the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario, having served as Chair of the Legal and Legislation Committee.

 

Interested citizens and resident associations are requested to attend. Please RSVP to Sue Shanly at sshan[AT]rogers[DOT]com

 

 

MIRANET 2019 AGM Invite

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Plastics in Our Oceans and Lakes

On March 9th Sven Spengemann, MP for Mississauga-Lakeshore, held an information session for citizens on the topic, “Plastics in Our Oceans and Lakes.”  The turnout was much greater than expected for a Saturday morning, estimated to number about 300 people.  Before the presentations began, people were offered coffee and tea while they visited various displays and talked with dedicated local environmental groups working towards the reduction of plastic pollution in our water ways and oceans.

The morning was started by a smudging ceremony to bring clear thinking and cooperation within the gathering.  Sven welcomed everyone, introduced the speakers and spoke about the purpose of the morning.  Presentations were then given from a variety of speakers’ viewpoints but the main message was the dire condition of our Great Lakes and oceans due to plastics.  The audience heard the following troubling information from a number of speakers:

In Mississauga less than 12% of plastics are recycled.

In the Great Lakes 80% of the litter is from plastics, including microbeads from textiles.

There are no plastic return programs in Ontario.

Every year 8 million tonnes of plastics enter the oceans, half of them in just the past 13 years.

For example, garbage in the Don River is mostly single use plastic.

And 500 million plastic straws are used every day.

A presentation from the Canadian plastics industry included the following:  there are 2600 plastic companies in Canada ; they employ 82,000 employees; it is a $24.3 billion industry.  They support a goal of 100% of plastics being reused, recycled, and recovered.  Reducing production was not mentioned.

Scientists at the University of Toronto are now using satellites to measure significant plastic contamination found in coastline waters around the world.

The morning ended with a message from Sven about the dangerous level of Great Lakes and ocean plastics pollution and the need for everyone to take part in reducing it with single use plastic being  an early target for reduction in Ontario.  The audience was then invited to ask questions of the speakers.  The morning was very successful in terms of attendance and in new and renewed  dedication in the participants  to confront  the all-important  problems of plastics pollution.

 

– A Report from MIRANET member, Whiteoaks Lorne Park Community Association

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Our Property Taxes are Increasing

MIRANET’s Chris Mackie has written up this summary of the City of Mississauga’s 2019 budget.

 

The 2019 budgets approved by the City and Region will raise residential property taxes by 2.9 percent.   The increase will go into effect July 1, 2019, plus the annual increase in MPAC property assessments.  Expect a significant increase.

Our actual tax increase will vary according to the difference in the percentage increase in the property assessment and the average increase for residential properties across the City.

Mississauga’s tax supported budget is based upon increases to the previous year’s budget.   Expenditures approved one year are carried forward to subsequent years Exceptions?   Only if they’re specifically deleted.

MIRANET presented an overview of the operating and capital budgets to Budget Committee in January 2019.   We supported increases in the MiWay budget ($87.4 million) directed at improving service.

MIRANET is critical of the staffing requirements of the Fire and Emergency Services department.  In addition to 20 firefighters to be hired in 2019, an additional 13 staff are added to conduct fire safety inspections and education programs. A total of 34 inspectors will be hired during the next four years.

A new fire station is scheduled to open in September and another five stations over the next ten years.  The increase is an attempt to reduce the average response time from 5:50 minutes to 4:00 minutes.

At $114.0 million the Fire and Emergency Services budget is the largest component of the City’s $874.2 million operating budget.

A $1.0 million grant to UTM was removed by Budget Committee.

The increase in the tax-supported budget of $25.4 million adds 1.56% to the property tax.  The increase in the Region of Peel budget adds 1.34 %.  The total increase of 2.9 % is slightly higher than the forecast increase in the consumer price index for 2019.

The City’s ten-year capital budget of $2.8 billion has increased by $420 million during the past 12 months.

Property taxes are a regressive form of taxation.  Taxes that increase faster than the rate of inflation are toxic to those living on fixed or low incomes.  Combined with escalating MPAC assessments, property taxes will continue to absorb an increasing portion of many household incomes.

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MIRANET disappointed with Planning & Development Committee timing change

On February 22, the City of Mississauga changed the timing of the Planning & Development Committee from its usual evening meeting time to the afternoon.

MIRANET and other resident associations expressed their disappointment at this development. This was covered in the Peel Daily News and also in a column by John Stewart of The Mississauga News.

Our letter to City Council and coverage in the Peel Daily News is below.

 

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Debris pollution caused by trucks on Southdown Road

Mississauga News ran an article on the debris pollution caused by trucks on Southdown Road.

Residents living near Southdown Road are growing weary of what they say is pollution from trucking yards along the road.

It’s been years since residents first started complaining, but “it happens all over again,” said Meadow Wood Rattray Ratepayers Association president Sue Shanly. Another resident who lives nearby, Peter Thompson, says the trucking yards dump dirt, mud, and debris all over the roadway on Southdown Road, just south of Royal Windsor Drive.

You can read the article here: Residents upset over debris pollution caused by trucks on Southdown Road in Mississauga

 

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Province to sell Lakeview site as part of Mississauga waterfront redevelopment

lakeview.jpg.size.custom.crop.1086x557

By Tess Kalinowski-Real Estate Reporter
Tues., June 6, 2017

A 177-acre piece of Mississauga waterfront land owned by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has officially hit the market.

The province announced on Tuesday that it is selling the old Lakeview generating station site east of Cawthra Rd., south of Lakeshore Rd. East.

The developer or consortium that buys the property will have to remediate the industrial lands before transforming the area into a mixed-use community expected to house up to 20,000 residents and 9,000 jobs.

“The province is relinquishing some value for the benefit of the community,” said Finance Minister Charles Sousa, MPP for Mississauga South.

The Lakeview site will become a new community of about 8,000 residential units, with generous green spaces, boardwalks, canals lined with restaurants and boutiques, wetland trails and a cultural event space.

“It will be connected to the rest of the waterfront in a way that will give residents a lot of comfort,” said Sousa.

He said a successful buyer should be identified by the fall. Commercial real estate company Jones Lang Lasalle is the agent for the deal.

Sixty-seven acres of the property have already been promised to the city and the buyer will be required to remediate that land as well.

Sousa said there is already plenty of interest, from developers but he wouldn’t speculate on how much the property is worth.

The nearby 72-acre Imperial Oil site to the west in Port Credit is expected to attract about $2 billion in residential and commercial development. It was bought by a consortium called West Village Partners, which includes the Kilmer Group, Dream Unlimited, Diamond Corp. and FRAM + Slokker.

Price will play a role in the successful bid for Lakeview, but the developer’s reputation will also be taken into account, said Sousa.

“We want to promote talent and experience in the local community, too,” he said.

Lakeview, which operated for 43 years before being decommissioned in 2005, “was a powerhouse in our economy,” said Sousa, who moved to the area when he was 7. But while he lived near the lake, Sousa said he never saw the water because the OPG station blocked the view.

But it was also responsible for some smog days, he said, remembering the white coal ash that would cover the cars in the neighbourhood.

Lakeview’s four smoke stacks known as the Four Sisters, were demolished in 2006.

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MIRANET’s New Executive Board 2017-2018

MIRANET’s New Executive Members 2017-2018

Chair: Julie Morris                                                                                                                           Vice Chair: Sue Shanly (Membership  Development)                                                                     Vice Chair: Jamie Dookie (Communication)                                                                           Treasurer: Charlene Haupt  and  Trevor Isaac (Membership Development)                           Secretary/Minutes Recorder: Rotating

The MIRANET Council will meet monthly  on the first Wednesday of each month except for the months of July and August.

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City audit reveals inadequate business practices in fire and emergency services

An internal audit revealed high staff turnover has resulted in unchecked inventory, maintenance expenses and work hours

NEWS May 16, 2017 by Rachael Williams Mississauga News

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Fire and emergency services

Metroland file photo

Staff turnover and inefficient record keeping in the city’s fire and emergency services division has raised alarm bells at city hall.

An internal audit detailing concerns over the division’s building and fleet maintenance was presented to the city’s audit committee on Monday. Inefficient inventory tracking, cash handling and failure to properly document maintenance expenses were just a few issues identified in the audit.

“We need to recognize the business processes are really outdated,” said Al Steinbach, the city’s director of internal audit.

Steinbach identified Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services (MFES) as a high-risk area, and attributed the problems to staff turnover, which has left employees unaware of their roles and responsibilities.

Over the past two years, four staffers in management/supervisory roles have retired, including the assistant chief, capital assets, the building maintenance co-ordinator and the head mechanic.

“We do have a shift in culture in the fire service,” said Fire Chief Tim Beckett. He added the department has focused primarily on fire suppression and hasn’t put as much focus on the day-to-day operating procedures.

The fleet and facility maintenance department has an operating budget of $3.7 million. The operating budget for Fire and Emergency Services is the city’s third largest expense, at $105 million. Steinbach said without proper procedures in place, the city is missing out on opportunities to save money.

MFES operates 20 fire stations across the city, running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Four of these fire stations are shared with Region of Peel Paramedic Services. As a result, some of the operating and maintenance costs can be recovered at the region, but MFES staff failed to submit chargebacks.

The audit also found there was no tracking of materials used for fleet and facility maintenance and work hours were not properly logged. Concerns surrounding insurance requirements, scrap metal revenues and unchecked third party invoices were also found to be inadequate.

Beckett said MFES is implementing a 16-page action plan to address the audit’s findings.

Coun. Ron Starr asked if further cost savings could be found by merging the city’s transportation and works department fleet maintenance with the MFES fleet.

But city manager Janice Baker replied that collective bargaining agreements stand in the way, as the two departments operate as separate businesses, each with their own union.

“That’s a historic challenge that we have,” she said.

Staff have recommended a followup audit before the year’s end.

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Taxpayers fund Mississauga councillor’s overseas trips

Coun. Nando Iannicca expensed trips to Dubai, Hawaii and Miami in 2016

NEWS Mar 27, 2017 by Rachael Williams Mississauga News

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Coun. Nando Iannicca

Coun. Nando Iannicca expensed nearly $16,000 to attend conferences in overseas destinations in 2016. – Metroland file photo

Mississauga’s downtown councillor spent nearly $16,000 of taxpayer dollars on trips to Dubai, Hawaii and Miami last year.

An overview of municipal and regional expenses claimed last year shows Coun. Nando Iannicca travelled to the world’s most popular vacation destinations on the taxpayer’s dime. This includes a $6,859 voyage to Dubai, a $5,440 Hawaii excursion and a $3,607 trip to Miami.

The ward 7 councillor listed the names of various conferences as the reason for his globetrotting. Conferences included the International Institute of Social and Economic Sciences (Miami), World Conservation Congress on sustainability and conservation (Hawaii) and the International Conference on Leadership, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Dubai).

“My attendance at the World Conservation Congress was as Chair of Credit Valley Conservation,” wrote Iannicca in an email, noting it is only held once every four years and former President Barrack Obama was the keynote speaker.

“Conference lasted 10 days though I stayed for only five, booked the conference hotel at a reduced rate, and also reduced my expenses by covering almost all the airfare myself.”

In 2015, Iannicca expensed conferences in Greece, France and Italy totalling $15,922.

When asked if his family accompanied him on any of his business trips, Iannicca declined to answer.

He told The News his expenses conformed to all policies, were under budget and approved by staff and council.

Examination of line-by-line expense filings shows Iannicca also topped the list for councillors who spent the most on “business meetings”, charging approximately $3,742 back to the city, over $1,000 more than the mayor’s business meeting expenses.

Iannicca represents Mississauga’s downtown, the highest populated ward in the city undergoing major intensification.

Comparatively, the city’s waterfront is in the midst of an unprecedented revitalization and is a hotspot for developers, land speculators and other stakeholders, yet area Coun. Jim Tovey did not expense any business meetings.

An overview of municipal expenses claimed last year shows city councillors spent a total of $323,012 on events, fundraisers, conferences, phone bills, promotional material and donations to community organizations and other city business.

Coupled with expenses filed at the Region of Peel, which totalled $46,065, councillors expensed $369,077.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie used $81,029 of her annual $104,100 municipal office budget, an $18,470 increase from her 2015 expenses.

Crombie’s largest filings come from two trade missions, one to India for $14,282 with Premier Kathleen Wynne and a $10,775 mission to Japan as part of her campaign promise to promote the city in overseas markets.

She also claimed $7,248 at the Region for conferences in San Francisco, Winnipeg and Windsor.  A $2,500 registration fee for the India trade mission was also expensed at the Region.

Coun. Pat Saito’s municipal expenses topped the list of all councillors, having spent $34,122 in 2016. However, the Ward 9 councillor used nearly $9,000 of her office budget to fund the opening of the Meadowvale Community Centre, including the supply of promotional items, popcorn and refreshments.

The lowest spender on city council in 2016 was John Kovac, expensing a mere $7,129 of his $32,849 office budget.

Mississauga councillors take home an annual salary of $85,581 from the city, plus an additional $54,315 for sitting on Region of Peel council.

Crombie earned an additional $13,444 for her membership on Peel Police Services Board, $22,605 for sitting on the Enersource Board.

Enersource, which is 90 per cent owned by the city, also paid Saito $10,800 and Coun. Ron Starr an additional $9,600.

Iannicca also takes home an extra $13,181 for sitting on the Credit Valley Conservation Board.

Posted in Blog

Peel Region councillors agree to form committee to review personal expense policy

Review follows media coverage

NEWS May 25, 2017 by Roger Belgrave Brampton Guardian
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Peel Regional Council

Peel Region council members have agreed to form a committee to review their personal expenses policy. – Rob Beintema/Metroland file

Peel Region council members have agreed to form a committee to review their personal expenses policy.

Mississauga Coun. Carolyn Parrish made the suggestion at the May 25 council meeting in light of recent Metroland Media articles about how discretionary spending allowances are used and expenditures approved.

“Let’s just tighten it up,” suggested Parrish, who also volunteered to chair the committee.

Other council members met her suggestion with enthusiasm.

There were plenty of volunteers among councillors to sit on the committee and be a part of the review process.

Most constituents likely never get a chance to see details about how councillors are spending the taxpayer-funded expense accounts or how much they are spending, Parrish remarked.

Regional council expense account statements and reports are posted online.

Similar financial statements are also posted on the city and town websites for councillor expense claims made at those levels.

Mississauga Coun. Nando Iannicca, who supported formation of a committee, said he hoped the review would take a holistic look at the policy.

He added council as a whole has spent less in this current term of office than five Toronto councillors and he’d like to see some sort of per capita spending comparisons as part of this process.

Related Content:

Roger Belgrave is a reporter with the Brampton Guardian and Mississauga News. He can be reached atrbelgrave@bramptonguardian.com.. Follow him on Twitter @rbelgrave1 and the Brampton Guardian on Facebook

 

 

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Senior Brampton City Hall staff approved secret $1.25M bonus slush fund: report

Jun 05, 2017 04:22 by Peter Criscione Brampton Guardian

Committee meetings

An unprecedented abuse of taxpayer dollars by the City of Brampton’s former top executives, who approved secretive non-union bonuses worth $1.25 million, including payments for “favouritism” has been revealed in an internal audit report. – Toronto Star file photo

An unprecedented abuse of taxpayer dollars by the City of Brampton’s former top executives, who approved secretive non-union bonuses worth $1.25 million—including payments for “favouritism” that could have gone to themselves—has been revealed in an internal audit report.

It’s unclear if council, which meets Tuesday to receive the audit committee report, will call for a criminal investigation into the matter. Mayor Linda Jeffrey was asked if she would call for a police probe into staffers who quietly used public revenues from taxpayers like their personal bank account between 2009 and 2014.

“This is at best serious negligence, and at worst corruption,” Jeffrey wrote in an email response Monday. “I will continue to explore any and all avenues available to us. Respecting the taxpayers and residents of Brampton is my highest priority.”

The audit report focuses on a practice that became common among the city’s non-union staff called Outside Policy Requests (OPR). Senior staff devised the system of secret bonus payments to other non-union employees, and possibly to themselves.

“This is at best serious negligence, and at worst corruption.” Mayor Linda JeffreyAccording to the audit report, city officials described OPRs as “discretionary salary increases determined by the operating department heads” that were “outside of council-approved policies” and documented procedures.

In the neighbouring cities of Toronto and Vaughan spokespeople told The Guardian they do not have any such practices, nor had officials in those cities heard of such practices.

The objective of OPR, according to previously undisclosed documents unearthed in the audit report, was to “align the salaries within the respective grades to achieve fairness and equity”.

However, Brampton auditors state that such bonuses were not part of council-approved policy or authorized under relevant rules and that over time “requests were approved for reasons beyond its initial intention.”

The audit also points out that the OPR payments to non-union staff could not be tracked because there was a “lack of coding”.

With no oversight or formalized processes “the OPR practice became mismanaged.”

For example, “favouritism” was eventually listed as one of the top 10 reasons to allow an OPR bonus, which the audit report points out is not in line with the previously stated reasons in internal documents.

In its response, the city said there was a “perception within the corporation that favouritism was a common reason why an OPR was initiated and approved by previous administrations.”

“The favouritism rationale is not condoned,” the city stated.

The audit report zeros-in on the period between January 2009 and May 2014, which was given a code red designation (the highest possible call to action) from audit staffers recommending immediate action on addressing such policies.

Among its findings, the report revealed:

·167 city employees across 15 departments received payments for a total of $1.25 million;

· Each employee received an average payment of approximately $7,500;

· Of the total $1.25 million payment under OPR, $316,000 (25 per cent) was paid to eight employees

· Total amount received per employee over this period ranged from $123 to over $95,000;

The report indicates that due to a “lack of coding” in the internal system these OPR transactions could not be identified.

The report recommends that OPR be discontinued immediately, and acknowledges a sudden drop to almost no OPRs after 2014. The city stated that there was no OPR line item in the annual budget. It also noted that council approval for the OPRs was not sought.

“Council approves the budget envelope for any given year and it is up to management to allocate expenditures for operations. OPRs were considered a part of this practice until their discontinuation in 2015,” according to a statement provided by the city.

Asked if he would be recommending a criminal investigation, CAO Harry Schlange did not respond.

“We are committed to the recommendations and action plans to strengthen our internal controls moving forward,” read a statement provided by the city.

In addition to the $1.25 million paid out to staff without council’s approval, the woman who initially oversaw the audit investigation that uncovered what amounts to a taxpayer-funded slush fund, Catherine Spence, was let go by senior executives last year who could have been part of the OPR program. Spence, who was the head of the internal audit department, left the city while the probe into the undisclosed bonus payments was still underway.

After Spence’s employment was terminated by the city early in 2016, while the audit investigation she was overseeing was still underway, the city’s new chief administrative officer, Schlange, took over as the city’s top bureaucrat in May 2016 — years after the bulk of the bonuses were paid and when the audit work that uncovered the secretive OPR program was already almost completed.

In September, as part of a massive restructuring of senior staff, Schlange terminated many of the executives who, according to Friday’s report, had years earlier approved the $1.25 million in secretive bonus payments to non-union staff. It’s possible that some of those payments could have gone to the same senior executives who secretively approved them.

The report reveals that “through discussions with management” OPR had been “common practice since at least 2009.”

The city told The Guardian it will not be citing specific individuals or the status of their employment.

Deborah Dubenofsky held the city manager role during the bulk of the period identified, till the fall of 2012 when John Corbett replaced her.

The Guardian asked Dubenofsky Monday morning (June 5) if she launched the OPR program and or approved the payments. She did not respond by end of day.

Corbett was a member of Brampton’s senior leadership team for decades both as planning chief and then as CAO from 2012 up to the termination of his contract in 2015.

Asked by The Guardian if he knew of the OPR practice, had approved it and whether he received such payments, Corbett said, “I’m really not equipped to answer that in time or verify it,” adding he has never heard the term Outside Policy Requests.

“Over my 40 years there, there were all these terminologies for different things and the policy I guess changed from time to time. But I’d have to have to do some real memory digging to remember details and specifics.”

The audit findings reveal HR management provided the city’s senior leadership and executive team a report dated May 21, 2014, which indicated that 230 Outside Policy Requests totalling $1.25 million were approved by the executive leadership team (ELT) between Jan. 1, 2009 and May 14, 2014.

In addition to Corbett, the executive leadership team that ultimately approved such expenses in 2014 was made of Julian Patteson, chief public services officer, Marilyn Ball, planning chief, Peter Simmons, chief corporate services officer, and Dennis Cutajar, chief operating officer. The chiefs were among senior staffers terminated last year in a massive restructuring of the bureaucracy under Schlange who has repeatedly stated that positions were vacated strictly based on a need to restructure the organization and creating synergies while streamlining operations.

The payouts happened during a period when several other questionable acts inside City Hall were identified, including abuses in discretionary expenses by councillors and the former mayor, hundreds of city contracts issued that violated policies and capital projects worth tens of millions of dollars that went unaccounted for. Senior staff, over the same period, also spent $175,000 of taxpayer money to buy tickets to former mayor Susan Fennell’s private fundraising events, without council knowledge.

It is primarily up to council to scrutinize the non-union staff salary disclosures through the annual budget process meant to protect Brampton taxpayers.

Two councillors who directly oversaw city budgets while the secret OPR policy was carried out were asked about the alarming report.

Coun. Gael Miles faced criticism as budget chair for approving staff budget presentations with little council scrutiny, while budgets passed within days of staff presentations or even on the same day—unlike city councils in the GTA that take weeks or even months to approve staff presented budgets. Miles said Monday she is “very concerned” about the audit report, but could not provide any examples of specific concerns she raised about the OPR program.

Coun. Elaine Moore, chair of the audit committee, was asked if she ever, either through the audit committee or full council, raised concerns about this practice or any other specific practice involving bonus structures not in line with approved city policies. Moore said “if there had been any indication that this practice was occurring and being abused, Audit Committee, and myself as Chair would have taken corrective and decisive measures to ensure that an HR audit was on the Council approved Internal Audit Workplan.”

Jeffrey is renewing her call for outside oversight, which was recently rejected by some members of council.

“This audit review was long overdue,” Jeffrey said. “This report demonstrates there is more work to do. In order to further strengthen the transparent, independent and third party oversight at City Hall I believe it would be wise to once again invite Mr. McCarter to conduct a follow-up audit,” said mayor Jeffrey, adding she will push for a full-time independent auditor general at city hall.

Posted in Blog

Mississauga Fire Station 119 Earns City’s First LEED Gold Status

The City of Mississauga was awarded its first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Status for Fire Station 119 located at 6375 Airport Road. The LEED Gold Status applies to both Fire Station 119 and Peel Regional Paramedic Satellite Station S11 as part of the Airport Road Emergency Services building.

“We’ve made it a priority to make our facilities environmentally friendly. Our commitment to being at the forefront of green and sustainable design is evident with this milestone and we hope to continue leading the way for other municipalities to follow,” said Ward 5 Councillor, Carolyn Parrish. “The residents of Malton are particularly proud of being at the forefront of gold standard environmental innovation.”

Officially opened in June 2016, the state-of-the-art facility consists of many sustainable design features, including:

  • a white reflective roof
  • stormwater management design
  • exterior and interior LED fixtures
  • high efficiency heating and cooling equipment
  • natural ventilation
  • low flow plumbing fixtures

“As the City of Mississauga’s first certified LEED Gold building, Fire station 119 represents an important milestone in the City’s commitment to building great and environmentally responsible buildings in our communities,” said Raj Sheth, Director of Facilities and Property Management. “This award illustrates Mississauga’s commitment to becoming a leader in green building initiatives and reinforces the City’s strategic plan’s green pillar.”

Mississauga began pursuing LEED Gold certification for Fire Station 119 at the start of the design process. This is now the second City facility with LEED status. Garry W. Morden Fire Training Centre received a LEED Silver Status in 2014.

In September 2016, Fire Station 119 also won a Mississauga Urban Design Award – Award of Merit for Quality and Green Initiatives.

About LEED
LEED certification provides independent third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health. Sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality are all aspects of LEED design.


(L-R) Cliff Farion (ret.), Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services; Rajiv Chugh, Project Manager – FDA, Facilities and Property Management; Mayor Bonnie Crombie; Brian Walsh, Assistant Chief, Capital Assets, Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services; Ward 5 Councillor Carolyn Parrish; Anna Cascioli, Manager, Facilities Development and Accessibility, Facilities and Property Management; Raj Sheth, Director, Facilities and Property Management

Posted in Blog

Where are your 2017 dollars spent?

City of Mississauga’s 2017 Budget

Where are your 2017 dollars spent?

Posted in Blog

City of Mississauga 2017 Budget

The 2017 Business Plan and Budget was approved on December 14, 2016. The approved numbers are reflected on these pages.

Try the City’s Budget Allocator Tool

PLEASE NOTE: The Budget Allocator results were provided to budget committee on November 28, 2016. This tool will remain online for informational purposes; any submissions or comments will not be included in the budget process at this time.

The budget allocator is a great way to learn about the cost of City services and to tell us about your priorities. It enables you to adjust the funding for twelve of the day-to-day services you rely on the most.

Try the budget allocator

Posted in Blog

Municipal Property Assessment Notices to Be Mailed Out Starting May 16

May 05, 2016

 

Yesterday at General Committee, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) advised that Property Assessment Notices will be mailed out earlier than in previous years. Assessments will be mailed to Mississauga residential property owners starting on May 16. Mississauga property owners should carefully review and understand their Property Assessment Notices.

“An increase in assessment does not necessarily mean an increase in property taxes and, the City of Mississauga does not benefit financially from reassessment,” said Connie Mesih, Director, Revenue and Material Management. “Tax rates are adjusted to offset assessment value changes and to ensure the City does not receive a windfall gain as a result of an increase in assessment.”

Every four years MPAC conducts a province-wide Assessment Update and mails Property Assessment Notices to every property owner in Ontario.  This year, MPAC will be updating the assessed values of every property in Ontario.  All properties will have a legislated valuation date of January 1, 2016. MPAC looks at sales and compares like properties that have sold in a particular area.

The Property Assessment Notices will be used to calculate property taxes for the 2017-2020 property tax years. According to MPAC, assessed values of residential properties in Mississauga have increased an average of 6.8 per cent between 2016 and 2017. “If a property owners assessment increase is in line with the average assessment increase, property owners will see minimal change on their tax bill due to reassessment,” added Mesih.

The final Mississauga tax bills for 2016 use the 2012 assessment values and will be mailed out on June 9 and June 10. For more information visit the City of MississaugaTaxes and Assessment website.

 

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Posted in Blog

After a week of #DundasConnects

I was happy to see dozens of residents contributing at various DundasConnects events this week.   For those who missed the sessions, I will be posting the presentation slides soon.

This article was submitted for posting by one of our committee members.  You may find it an interesting critique of the Mississauga Transitway.

 

 

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